Have we lost our manners? I blame the Mobile Phone !

So this  blog may cause some fireworks !

In the last few years  I have noticed an alarming decline in old-fashioned manners . Now maybe its just my friends or the Northern Beaches of Sydney – perhaps too much time in the ocean has water-logged our brains. I fear its wider spread than that though , I blame the mobile (cell) phone !

Here are a few examples of things that have happened to me or people I know, that show the state of affairs I am talking about . (I may have no friends after this post – however the people who think they are the culprits never are )

  • A friend was cooking dinner for 40 people and some people who had RSVP’d – YES – didn’t come – no text, no call , nothing !
  • Texting to say you are leaving the house at the time when you had agreed to meet, when the place you had agreed to meet is 40 minutes from your house !
  • Not RSVPing at all – I blame FaceBook for this one. Who invented the Maybe button on an Event – really !!!
  • Getting a  better offer!! Now single friends know that a date with Mr or Mrs Dreamboat means we can all be flicked – but apart from that or meeting the Queen/Prince William and Kate/ Brad Pitt/ George Clooney / or Free Coldplay tickets  – is it really a better offer when you hurt a friend ?
  • Texting a regrets on dinner an hour before – yes we all love left-overs – but this can be an expensive one!

You get the drift. Why do I blame the mobile phone ?

I blame the mobile  phone because it enables us to text when before we would have had to call and speak to a person and hear their disappointment or anger that we were not coming to an event. We also had to show up where and when we said we would because otherwise people would be waiting with no clue about what was going on, feeling anxious and stressed about our well-being.

Am I blameless in this – of course I am not. I have done some of these things too. (Sorry Zack Evans if you are reading this)

It is still not right.

As many of you who read my blog are pursuing leadership of some kind or another – this will really undermine people’s respect for you .

We need to be people who let our yes be yes and our no be no. We need to stick to our commitments even when they require sacrifice. We need to learn how to say no up front as well so we don’t end up in situations where we are pulling out of many things last-minute because we have overcommited  and are exhausted.

There are always circumstances we can’t avoid –  illness, emergencies etc etc – which cause us to legitimately have to pull out of things. I recently had to say no to a funeral of a dear friend’s father because my Mum needed to go to the doctor urgently.

However very rarely are the circumstances so bad we can’t at least send a text or make a call !

Let be people of our word, who respect other people enough to communicate!

Lets also keep having grace for people who do these things – we can only work on ourselves !

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Reducing Stress in 2017

So another year begins and many of us love a fresh start to reset and hopefully do things a bit better than we did in 2016.

If I am honest I realised that I didn’t deal that well with the normal end of year stress in 2016 for a variety of reasons. (Hence the absence of my blog !)

If you are like me, you want to find a way to live with less stress and every year you come up with a new strategy – often for me  which involves sitting on a beautiful beach for hours, great plan but not always achievable.

I have just returned from a few weeks holiday (vacation) and I did just that – lots of chilling , on beaches or by the harbour. While I was relaxing one of the books I was reading was the  The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp . I can’t remember the last time I cried as much in a non fiction book . This book has much to say – and much that is challenging me . However as I process the challenges there is one thing that stands out to me right now .

Its Chapter Nine called the Miracle in Your Pocket that Breaks Stress.

In this Chapter, the Yale and UCLA study on Acts of Kindness is unpacked.

Turns out one way to reduce your stress is to do  a small act of generosity for some-one else ! Apparently overall we do one or two acts of kindness a day as a matter of course but when we increase this at all,  we see a tangible benefit to our well-being . Helping behaviours seem to lower stress. ( CBS Report of UCLA/ Yale study )

I love that science is showing us what the Bible has told us for centuries in so many verses –  here is a favourite “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Prov 11.25.

I know we still need to exercise, eat well. delegate better, turn off emails at night etc etc to reduce stress  – but it turns out we can also just do a simple act of kindness to another person, once more than usual, in a day and we will feel better. I love it ! What a classic win/win.

Before we get too sincere and want to only give to others without benefit to ourselves lets consider our design.

What if we are created in the image of the God who IS love – and that love is expressed in giving?

What if the God of the Universe created us to be giving beings?

What if the only way we really function in a healthy way is when we are being kind and giving?

What if giving to some-one else takes our eyes off our own problems long enough for us to see a solution, hear the still small voice or reconnect with the Prince of Peace?

Imagine a world where everyone just did one more act of generosity a day, a world with reduced stress and increased kindness (little John Lennon I know but bear with me), sounds to me like a world where the Kingdom of God is increasing.

Its simple and basic I know – but isn’t it the loveliest way of reducing stress in 2017?

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What I learned about Grace from the Snow

So I am not naturally athletic. I started to learn to ski at 16 and it took me about 20 years to get it. Ask Josh Kelsey, who as a 12 year old ended up skiing with me one day in Massachusetts . Every single time we got off the chair lift I crashed and I took him with me. He would be so patient, coaching me – “this time you are going to make it Pam” – yeah I never did.

The problem was we were skiing on ice. And the problem I had whenever I went skiing was that I skied in icy conditions. Ice is very unforgiving. You fall on it and it hurts.

A few years later I had the joy of going to the stunning, Crested Butte in Colorado with family and friends. Every morning it snowed. Every afternoon we skied on a foot of fresh powder. Powder is very forgiving, you fall into it and it doesn’t hurt.

Here is what happened to me – I finally got skiing. I am never going to be brilliant at skiing , however by the end of the week I was skiing from the top of the mountain with my brother and sister -in-law.

I got it, because I could make a mistake, fall over, and it didn’t hurt like hell !

The powder meant I didn’t worry about falling and so I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes, and so I got better. Instead of creeping down the hill terrified of falling I was free to have fun, and learn . (My brother shouting instructions from chair lifts above, like the voice  God, me also helped !)

Recently I have made some mistakes. Sometimes I have encountered grace from people. It feels like falling into powder – I am still on the ground, but I fell into something soft that meant I have been able to get back up unscathed and carry on.

I have also encountered a lack of grace. It felt like crashing onto ice, not only was I embarrassed by my mistake, but it hurt and damaged my heart.

I have also been around people extending very little grace to others. It feels sharp and brittle.

Grace doesn’t say its OK that you keep falling down, but it creates the environment, that enables you to get back up, keep trying until you don’t fall as much.

We have all been forgiven much, so surely we need to be people who extend grace. Grace does not say ” keep messing up” . It says “we all mess up, let me help you up”.

One of my favourite Jesus moments is Jesus with the woman caught in adultery. He asked her where her accusers where after they had left and then he said to her  – “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”.

She fell into powder that day – and it changed her life!

I want to be a person who creates powder for people – I know I am often ice – and I don’t like it. How about you ?

(If you would like to get content like this  in your email regularly and never have to look for it on social media again – just put your email address in  the subscribe section . My goal is to help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made and to encourage you on your journey, to be real and to be helpful!)

Tough Times Need An Often Forgotten Fruit

Recently I went through a very challenging time . I have learnt so much from it .

It started a few weeks ago I got a call on a Sunday morning early that one of my family members was in hospital 90 minutes away. Along with the rest of the family in Sydney, I jumped in a car and spent the whole day at the hospital.

On Monday morning as you can imagine I was not at my best.

I stopped at the shops and my car door opened too quickly and touched the door next to it. The driver of the other car was there yelling at me in seconds. I promptly burst into tears, then explained my reaction was not due to the car – but rather, the ill family member and guess what happened ?

The other driver got more angry at me, continued to yell and be aggressive in a way that eventually meant I lodged a police report. (I have never done that before – it was unpleasant people )

The man had no kindness or compassion for me . He was totally fixated on telling me about his issues, which were of great concern to him I know.

Both of us needed kindness that day – but instead there was just lots of angry words exchanged.

Then in the following weeks I received so much kindness which starkly contrasted this incident. People in my world have poured out kindness in so many forms – there were so many flowers, calls, texts, meals, baking done, rides given, classes and work duties covered, prayers prayed and care given. As a verbal processor I am so grateful to family and flat-mates who listened – for hours !

Somehow in the middle of a tough time – when nerves are frayed – kindness is like balm for your brittle soul.

Last Saturday afternoon in a car park after another draining time, a lady cut me off and took my spot. Again teary, I thought – when I cut off a person in traffic, or speak harshly to a sales person, or get annoyed with a waiter – I need to be mindful that I don’t know what they are facing today.

Today, maybe if I die to my agenda a little and show kindness where ever I can – maybe I can offer a balm to a brittle soul. Maybe I can be more Christ-like, maybe I can let the fruit of kindness grow again  in my life. Maybe it will be just what some-one needs to get through the day.

In this crazy world we live in – and especially in the tough times – I realized again – kindness is not just important, it is crucial for the human soul.

(If you would like to get content like this  in your email regularly and never have to look for it on social media again – just put your email address in  the subscribe section . My goal is to help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made and to encourage you on your journey, to be real and to be helpful!)

The Job of Saviour of the World is Taken

At the moment there are some people in my extended world who I am watching making some pretty interesting decisions. As I have pastored for over 20 years (officially) I have spent a lot of my life watching people make decisions and then observing the consequences of these decisions . I am a professional people watcher !

I have celebrated with many people who have enjoyed success and joy from those decisions. I have also watched some pretty spectacular crashes, and sometimes been privileged to help people pick up the pieces and rebuild.

(I have also been in both those categories. I know I have often caused people to scratch their heads in bewilderment at some of the decisions I have made.)

Right now though, when I think about a few people I know in particular who are making decisions that I can see will not end well for them, I feel incredibly concerned for them.

I want to help them avoid mistakes I have made. I want to rush in and give them lots of wisdom and advice and I want them to change the direction they are going in. I have seen these patterns too many times, and lived these patterns, to know that they can be avoided. I want to fix these situations before any more damage is done.

However at Easter, more than any other time, I need to know there is only one Saviour. His name is Jesus, and he did not resign and give me the job.

My responsibility is to pray, to support and help where it is asked for, but it is not not to be their Saviour. I cannot take responsibility for another person’s life.

I cannot jump into that sacred place between a believer and their God.

I have to remember that each person’s life is a  journey of making decisions. It is part of the joy of being human, made in the image of God. It is what theologians call free will. For believers it is a journey of walking with the Holy Spirit to make those decisions.

As a pastors and leaders we can so easily get saviour complexes. Our care can become a burden we were never meant to carry.

We need to pray, believe and love people but ultimately we need to let Jesus be their Saviour.

He is the only one with shoulders broad enough to carry that load for all humanity.

At Easter I am so grateful that Jesus is Lord and Saviour of all!

The job of Saviour of the World, was and is, His to do. How magnificently he fulfils that purpose.

Happy Easter Everyone!

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Painting by Phil Pringle used with permission. http://philpringle.com/artstudio

Leading Yourself 2 – Your Money

As leaders I don’t think we necessarily have to have investment and property portfolios, I do believe however there are some areas of our finances that we need to lead.

1.Giving

We have to have the giving/tithing/ offering questions resolved in our minds and be regularly giving. We need to be giving to our local churches, and to our friends on mission fields, to building funds, to charities and disaster relief . We need to do it within our budgets but it has to be a regular part of our lives. We can’t ask people to give if we are not doing it.  It is part of being Christ like- he gave his everything and if we are like him we give.

2. Generosity 

We have to be generous people – yes with our time and property but also with money. We can’t be the people who are known for skimping out on our part of the dinner bill or never contributing to group gifts. God has been so generous to us, we need to have a generous heart.

3. Pay Bills 

Leaders are people who, except in dire, unforeseen circumstances,  pay bills on time. We are good stewards so we avoid late fees. We also avoid the stress of creditors chasing us down. Leaders who never have any credit on their phone because they haven’t paid the bill are hamstrung in the 21st century.

4. Live within a Budget 

Leaders live within what their current circumstances are. I once ran up a large credit card debt and I will never do it again. It took me way too long to get out of debt and that sucked the  joy out of those purchases. It also meant I paid ay too much in interest and I could have done something useful with that money. The only area I have large debt these days is my home – and unfortunately that is just part of life in Sydney.

I know this is all really basic – but unfortunately some of this took me too long to get. I also see grown people in their middle age thinking spirituality is praying and coming to lots of church meetings, and their finances are a mess. They wonder why people don’t respect them and God doesn’t use them. We don’t need to be wealthy – but we do need to be wise.

A real relationship with God brings a generous heart. I am off to have a glass of wine now- because I have a generous flat mate who buys and shares NZ Sav Blanc !!

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First Lead Yourself

I had a conversation with a young leader who was stepping down from a leadership role a few weeks ago. In a moment an incredible self-awareness she said “I can’t lead other people when right now I can’t lead myself”.

If you are any type of leadership culture you will resonate with this and have heard it before.

This time  I heard it, thus got  me thinking. We are all works in progress and will have areas where we are doing well, and areas where we are struggling, so we can’t always lead ourselves well.

However here are some areas where if we can’t lead ourselves we will undermine any leadership role we are in.

So for the next few weeks I am going to unpack some of them. Heres the first one.

Leading Your Emotional World

Leaders can’t be emotionless robots or people who are always up and peppy. However I do believe we need some control of our emotional world.

This doesn’t mean we can’t have a tough day, express grief, anger or sadness. It does mean though that we need to have enough self-control that we can shelve those emotions when the situation requires it.

Leaders need a level of emotional stability so people around you can trust and rely on you.

For me the last thing I want is my team on egg shells wondering what sort of mood I am going to be in today (I am really hoping after this blog I don’t find out this is the case !)

Leaders need to be people who can handle problems and issues without losing control of their emotional world. We also need to understand how what is going on in our physical body affects our mood and brain function. Sometimes the situation is not as bad as your response, you just need food or sleep.

Part of this is knowing what the release valves on your emotions are.

At work if I know I am starting to red line I will go the kitchen at work, make a cup of tea , while its brewing I  go to the bathroom and tell God that I am not coping. Some how admitting it and asking for help is the first step towards gaining control. Then I usually find that either my perspective changes, peace comes or I get a God idea and I can get back into it.    ( Some days I drink a lot of tea)

At peak times I make sure I am walking the dog and praying every morning. I stay committed to swimming laps three times a week – I make sure I have fun times with good friends.

The things you do to release your emotional pressure valve will be different to mine – but you need to know what they are.

The last thing we need is for people we lead to experience outbursts of negative emotions on a regular basis because we are not in control. (We will all still lose the plot occasionally – which requires an apology I wrote about it here Say Sorry ) .Emotional stability creates trust and security in teams.

How do you keep your emotions under control ? What are you release valves, do you know when to use them ?  How do you healthily express emotions ?

(If you would like to get content like this  in your email regularly and never have to look for it on social media again – just put your email address in  the subscribe section . My goal is to help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made and to encourage you on your journey! )